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Best Activity For Your Small Dog Is Swimming

Updated: Feb 22

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The Advantages of Letting Your Dog Swim

Just like the timeless best activities for small dogs of fetch and leisurely walks, one pastime that resonates profoundly with most dogs is swimming.

Whether it takes place in tranquil lakes, meandering rivers, inviting swimming pools, or the salty sea, swimming isn't just enjoyable; it brings numerous physical and mental benefits to your cherished pet.

Letting your small dog swim is one of the best activities to keep them healthy.


“Swimming is a great way to keep your dog fit, healthy and happy. It can help with joint problems, weight management, cardiovascular health and mental stimulation. Plus, it’s a lot of fun for both you and your dog!” - Battersea Dogs & Cats Home


Letting Your Dog Swim Makes Them Happy!

Above all, swimming spells pure enjoyment!

For small dogs with an affinity for water, paddling around is an absolute delight. Moreover, at some locations like the coastline, you can partake in the aquatic adventure, deepening the connection with your furry family member.

Be the pet parent who lets your dog swim and goes in with them!

Letting Your Dog Swim - Stress Relief with Every Stroke

While the enjoyment factor is undeniable, letting your dog swim and swimming also serves as a balm for your small breed dog's mental well-being.

The freedom of frolicking in water offers a unique off-leash experience that might not always be accessible.

Letting Your Dog Swim - Gentle Exercise for Joint Health

Similar to humans, swimming is a low-impact, joint-friendly activity for dogs.

This non-weight-bearing exercise allows them to reap its benefits without stressing their joints or tendons.

Older dogs with joint conditions such as arthritis or dysplasia find immense relief in swimming, as it supports their weight and enhances joint mobility.

So letting your small dog swim can really help them gain relief from a variety of health issues.

Letting Your Dog Swim - Mental Stimulation with Every Dip

Stimulation is crucial for our all dogs, and swimming provides an avenue for that. Intelligent creatures that dogs are, they require daily mental workouts.

Swimming not only exhausts their physical energy but also ignites their cognitive faculties.

Whether it's learning to navigate the water or retrieving toys, swimming keeps their minds active.

An All-Round Health Boost

Did you know that just a minute of swimming equals four minutes of running for a dog?

Swimming is a holistic exercise, enhancing cardiovascular health, metabolism, and circulation.

These effects combat inflammation, ensuring your pet’s skin and coat remain vibrant and healthy – all essential for a happy life.

Safety Tips for Pooch Paddling

While swimming is fun for most, remember that not all dogs are natural swimmers.

Certain breeds, like brachycephalic ones (Pugs, French Bulldogs) or those with shorter legs (Corgis), might find it challenging, or even dangerous.

Here are our top safety suggestions for introducing your dog to water:

- Begin slowly and stick to shallow waters initially. - Gradually encourage them to explore deeper waters as their confidence grows. - Provide support under their belly, akin to teaching a child to ride a bicycle. - Use positive reinforcement – dog enrichment toys or dog food treats – to show that splashing around is delightful. - Always supervise your dog around water.


“Water is a natural element for dogs, and most of them love to splash, swim and play in it. Swimming can also provide many benefits for your dog’s physical and mental well-being, such as improving their muscle tone, circulation, mood and confidence.” - WWF - UK


FAQs about swimming for your small dog breed:

What are the benefits of swimming for small-breed dogs?

Swimming is one of the best, most complete forms of exercise for your dog. Just one minute of swimming equates to four minutes of running!

It provides numerous health benefits, including:

- Strengthening the heart and lungs

- Decreasing inflammation

- Increasing metabolism

- Improving circulation, which helps keep the skin and coat healthy

- Toning and strengthening muscles by moving their limbs against the resistance of the water

In addition, swimming is non-weight-bearing, low-impact, and concussive, so your dog may benefit from it all without wearing out their tendons and joints.

The fact it is low-impact makes swimming an incredibly beneficial form of exercise for dogs with joint problems, such as arthritis or dysplasia, and excellent rehabilitation for pups recovering from orthopaedic or neurological injury.

Not only is swimming great for your dog's physical health, it also improves their mental wellbeing.

Like humans, dogs need mental stimulation through play, fun, and varied activities that differ from the norm to help them stay sharp and happy.

Swimming allows dogs, usually restricted to exercising on a leash, to get out all their pent-up energy without feeling restrained.

Plus, a happily worn-out dog is more likely to look forward to going home and sleeping, allowing them to reap the therapeutic benefits of a good night's sleep.

How does swimming improve the overall health of small-breed dogs?

As mentioned above, swimming improves the overall health of small-breed dogs by providing them with a complete aerobic workout that tones and strengthens their muscles.

Swimming can also help prevent or manage some common health issues that affect small-breed dogs, such as:

- Obesity:

If your dog is overweight or obese, swimming can help them burn calories and reduce weight.

Diabetes is only one of the numerous health issues that obesity may cause heart disease, joint issues, and more.

- Dental problems:

Swimming can help keep your dog's teeth clean by stimulating saliva production and reducing plaque buildup.

- Anxiety:

Swimming can help reduce anxiety and stress in your dog by providing them with a fun and relaxing activity.

Anxiety can cause behavioural problems, such as excessive barking, chewing, or aggression.

Is swimming a good exercise for small-breed dogs with joint problems?

Swimming is a good exercise for small breed dogs with joint problems.

Swimming is low-impact, meaning it does not pressure your dog's joints and bones.

Swimming can also improve your dog's range of motion by allowing them to move their limbs differently than they usually would on land.

Swimming can also reduce pain and inflammation in your dog's joints by increasing blood flow and oxygen delivery.

Swimming can benefit small-breed dogs with joint problems such as arthritis or dysplasia.

A degenerative disease called arthritis makes joints swollen and painful.

A hereditary disorder called dysplasia results in improper development of the elbow or hip joints. Both conditions can affect your dog's mobility and quality of life.

Swimming can help slow the progression of arthritis or dysplasia by keeping your dog's muscles strong and flexible.

Swimming can also help your dog maintain a healthy weight, reducing the stress on their joints.

Which small dog breeds are good swimmers?

Some small dog breeds are naturally good swimmers because they were bred for water-related tasks, such as retrieving or hunting.

These breeds include:

- Poodle:

Poodles are intelligent and well-mannered but can swim rather nicely as well. They were initially developed as water retrievers in Germany.

- Portuguese Water Dog:

Portuguese Water Dogs are medium-sized dogs with curly coats bred to assist fishermen in Portugal.

They can swim long distances and dive underwater.

- Schipperke:

Schipperkes are small dogs with black coats bred to guard boats and catch rats in Belgium.

They are agile and adventurous swimmers.

- American Water Spaniel:

American Water Spaniels are small dogs with curly coats bred to hunt waterfowl in the United States.

They are energetic and enthusiastic swimmers.

Other small dog breeds that can enjoy swimming include:

- Bichon Frise:

Bichon Frises are small dogs with fluffy white coats bred as companion dogs in France.

They are playful and cheerful swimmers.

- Cavalier King Charles Spaniel:

Cavaliers are small dogs with silky coats bred as lap dogs in England.

They are gentle and affectionate swimmers.

- Papillon:

Papillons are small dogs with butterfly-like ears bred as companion dogs in France.

They are intelligent and graceful swimmers.

- Shih Tzu:

Shih Tzus are small dogs with long coats bred as palace dogs in China.

They are loyal and friendly swimmers.

How to train a small breed dog to swim?

Not all small breed dogs are natural swimmers, and some may need training and encouragement to swim.

Here are some tips on how to train a small-breed dog to swim:

- Choose a safe and shallow place to start, such as a kiddie pool, a bathtub, or a calm lake. Avoid places with strong currents, waves, or deep water.

- Introduce your dog to the water gradually and gently. Do not force or throw them into the water. Let them explore the water at their own pace and reward them with praise and treats for any positive steps.

- Support your dog's body with your hands or a flotation device, such as a life jacket or a pool noodle. Do not hold them too tightly or lift them out of the water. Let them feel the buoyancy of the water and the movement of their legs.

- Encourage your dog to paddle with their front and back legs. You can gently move their legs for them or use a toy or a treat to lure them forward. Praise them for any progress, and keep the sessions short and fun.

- Gradually increase the depth and distance of the water as your dog becomes more confident and comfortable. Always supervise your dog when swimming, and never leave them alone in the water.

Can swimming help with weight management in small-breed dogs?

Yes, swimming can help with weight management in small-breed dogs. Swimming is a great way to burn calories and fat and tone and strengthen muscles.

Additionally, swimming can increase your dog's metabolism, allowing them to burn more calories while resting.

For small breed dogs who are overweight or obese, swimming can be helpful since it lowers their chance of developing health concerns related to being overweight, such as diabetes, heart disease, joint difficulties, and more.

Comparing swimming to other exercises like running or leaping, which can injure or hurt overweight dogs, can also help your dog's joints and bones.

To help your dog lose weight with swimming, you should also follow these tips:

- Your vet can assess your dog's health condition and recommend the best type and amount of exercise.

- Combine swimming with a balanced and nutritious diet for your dog.

Your vet can also advise you on the best type and amount of dog food based on age, size, breed, activity level, and weight goals.

- Monitor your dog's weight and body condition regularly.

You can use a scale or a body condition score chart to track your dog's progress.

You should aim for a gradual and healthy weight loss of about 1% of their body weight per week.

What precautions should be taken when letting a small breed dog swim?

Swimming is an enjoyable and healthful pastime for your small breed dog. Still, you should also take some precautions to ensure their safety and comfort.

Here are some things to consider when letting your small-breed dog swim:

- Choose a safe and suitable place for your dog to swim. Avoid areas with strong currents, waves, deep water, sharp rocks, or dangerous wildlife. Check the water quality and temperature before letting your dog swim.

- Use a flotation device for your dog if they are not confident or experienced swimmers. You can use a life jacket or a pool noodle to support your body and keep it afloat. Ensure the device fits well and does not restrict their movement or breathing.

- Supervise your dog at all times when they are swimming. Please do not leave them alone or out of sight in the water. Be ready to help them if they get tired, scared, or in trouble.

Disclaimer: This article is intended for educational and informational purposes only. It is not intended as a substitute for veterinary advice. For specific veterinary dog health advice, contact a veterinary pet healthcare provider

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Mary Puppins, dog swim, dogs swimming, dogs swim

Mary Puppins, dogs swim, dog swimming, dog swim

Mary Puppins Dog Nanny Small Dog Expert

Kate Phillips, Chief Editor

BSc (Hons), MSc

Kate is the UK's very own Mary Puppins, a professional Dog Nanny and expert in small breed dogs. With over 30 years' experience and successfully helping high profile celebrity pet parents raise their furry families, Kate shares her top tips with you. Kate guides readers on small breed dogs, dog health, dog training, dog nutrition, dog food, dog walks, dog accessories, dog enrichment, rescue dogs, dog behaviour, dog grooming and the best products for dog mums and dog dads to create the ultimate luxury lifestyle for their small dogs.


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